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Empty Nest

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

After 24-hours of reading others’ empty nest social media posts, I began to cry; however, not for the reason you might think.



Empty Nest

By

Michelle Rossi Eddins


Empty Nest. The term we use to describe when one’s children are all out of the house, whether just living at college or fully on their own. Did momma bird do her innate job of teaching her fledglings to successfully fly and become independent? Or did she simply shove them out of the nest, flailing wildly to fend for themselves? Obviously, for humans, other scenarios exist in between these two extremes.


When I moved my son into his dorm for his freshman year of college, I enjoyed helping him organize his room and explore the campus. When it was time for me to leave there were no tears, just an embarrassingly big hug, as well as words of love and encouragement. I wasn’t worried about him; I knew this was where he should be. Three years ago if someone had asked me where he would be going to school, I would have said San Diego, although I didn’t know precisely which university. I drove home confident he was going to have a great freshman year.


Then I had about a week before taking my daughter across the country for her third year of college. She was camping with friends for the next couple of days giving me a preview of this empty nest so many people were talking about. I was really looking forward to it.


After 24-hours of reading others’ empty nest social media posts, I began to cry; however, not for the reason you might think. It seemed everyone else was sad and having a hard time without their kids, but I wasn’t. I just wanted to say, “Suck it up buttercup.” I began to feel like something was wrong with me. Was I being coldhearted?


Many friends checked in with me during the week to see how I was handling my new life situation. My standard answer was “I’m doing great!” But I opened up to several of my close friends and admitted feeling guilty about not being sad, and worried about being coldhearted. I tried to justify my actions by saying the goal is to raise children to become independent, successful humans, so we should be glad when they are happy to leave.


Then one friend really hit the nail on the head. She said she believed the emotion I was feeling was relief, and that is why I was crying. I have been a widowed, single mom for nine and a half years; making every decision regarding my children by myself. I was the good cop and the bad cop. I didn’t have them every other week, or get a couple weekends a month by myself. I was constantly trying to be a strong role model for them, and I now realized I have succeeded. They are both intelligent, kind and independent young adults who are now pursuing their dreams. Yes, I am feeling relief. Relief that I didn’t screw them up and relief that I no longer have that daily responsibility, knowing they are more than capable of living at school on their own. Sure, they will still need me, just not on a full-time basis.


After spending about a week in Boston settling my daughter into her new apartment, I returned home to my now empty nest. I wondered if it would be different than I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed my solitude, but would this be too much to have the house to myself day in and day out? It didn’t even occur to me until the plane ride home, that in my fifty years I’ve never lived alone. That realization might have been scary to most, but I found it exciting. I had a blank slate to do whatever my heart desired, tabula rasa.


I guess my heart wanted sleep; for more than a week I took long naps every day and didn’t accomplish a thing. Then before I could figure out what to focus on, I had friends staying with me from out of town for the next three weeks. One of my friends is a shaman who hosts retreats - or journeys - for self-discovery and healing. I am part of her women’s group who meets quarterly, and ended up joining her for two additional weekends, attending shamanic journeys three weeks in a row. I met some incredible people, expanding my network of friends, forming what I believe will be long-lasting relationships.


Once my guests returned home, I only spent a few days to myself before heading back to San Diego for Family Weekend. School had been in session for eight weeks and I was looking forward to seeing my son in his new surroundings and to know how he was adapting to college life. Everything seemed to be going well. We were able to spend quality time together and also hang out with his roommate and the roommate’s parents.


I love spending time with my son, and I enjoyed getting to know his roommate and his family; but I’m someone who cherishes my solitude, which has been scarce in the last month. I was now looking forward to some time at home, with just my dog, Mister, as a companion. He was the best listener, always by my side, never talking back. I knew our time alone would be short-lived; my daughter was scheduled to come home the following weekend for a visit. Then, after only three days of fluttering around in my empty nest, my beloved Mister suffered a prolonged seizure and could not recover. I was shocked and heartbroken. My buddy was gone and now my nest was truly empty, for a couple days.


It was nice to have my daughter home to grieve, laugh and reminisce about our magical malamute Mister. However, as is typical of students back from college, she didn’t spend much time at home. I’m grateful she asked my friends and I to dinner and to attend her boyfriend’s concert – even if it was to guarantee her underage admission.


I awoke Monday morning with a desire to write and an anxiety like I’ve never felt before. My house was eerily quiet, I was alone with absolutely no plans, yet I couldn’t sit still and gather my thoughts. I needed to get away and clear my mind. An hour later, I had researched where I could use my timeshare points and booked a last-minute trip to a resort in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. I had never gone on vacation by myself and was both excited and nervous all at the same time.


I was unaware I had scheduled my trip during Mexico’s Dia De Los Meurtos celebration -Day of the Dead, a holiday uniting the living and the dead. It couldn’t have been more perfect as I realized my feelings of being alone were attributed to missing Mister and my family members who had passed away during the last few years. I would celebrate their lives and cherish our memories during this amazing festival. I felt a rush of adrenaline when walking through town seeing the elaborate altars - or ofrendas - and the people in costumes with their faces painted. On one of the last visits with my mom before she died, my kids and I watched Disney’s Coco with her. It was like I was walking in a scene from the movie; I could hear her next to me, laughing.


My solo vacation brought healing and boosted my confidence. I had planned to spend the entire time alone, but instead found myself engaging in conversations with strangers and making friends at the pool, whom I ended up going out with several times. It was truly a blessing to meet these women. The parallels in our lives were so numerous I don’t believe it was a coincidence.


I returned home with a new zest for life and a passion to inspire others. I decided to take a life coaching certification course which I fully-emersed myself in. The knowledge gained and tools acquired from the course combined with my intuition and genuine desire to help people provide a good foundation to establish a coaching business. Always striving to improve, I enrolled in the Creative Writing Certification Program at UCLA. I’m motivated to write about my life, share my personal experiences and encourage people to follow their intuition.


Now that my kids are in college, I’m learning to focus on myself, while still occasionally helping them from afar. My empty nest has made my life full again.


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